‘A Blue Up North’ reviews the Chelsea v Arsenal match…
Chelsea vs Arsenal. The team who were crowned champions of England last season vs a team who had their worst finishing league position in years. The team that swept all teams aside in a record 30 Premier League matches last season vs a team with disappointing form against the top clubs. The team who’d won their last 4 matches including away at Spurs vs a team who’d lost their last 2 away PL matches without scoring. Surely this would be another win for The Blues. Alas this is football and what the form guide states is regularly ignored.
The match could be likened to a contest between two veteran heavyweights who just want to slog it out in the middle of the ring, with neither willing to show the other any frailties or weakness in defence. Chances were at a premium as both sides gave little away to each other.
The first half ebbed and flowed. Early on Chelsea managed to find a few small pockets of space and created a few half chances. A precise Fabregas pass put Pedro through for what proved to be their best chance of the match but the shot was poor and easily saved by Cech. Morata battled but only really had a couple of very difficult chances as he was well marshalled by Mustafi.
As the half progressed Arsenal became better organised and showed their more resilient side. Bellerin in particular was making good progress down their right flank, while their compactness meant they were stronger in the middle of the pitch. Antonio Conte countered that by bringing on Bakayoko for Pedro at half time and he made an instant impact. Not only does he have the ability to win the ball back but then he drives forward with strength and pace that excites the crowd and all watching.
Even the later introduction of Hazard could not break the Arsenal resolve and in truth it was the visitors who will feel aggrieved to have not taken all 3 points. A Ramsey charge into the penalty box which ended in his shot hitting the post was their clearest chance. A foolish lunge by Luiz late on saw him seeing red did little to change the match. It will be the players in red who will take belief and hope in their performance going forward.
Arsene Wenger has regularly stated in his tenure at The Gunners that he looks at away matches exactly as he looks at home matches and maybe Conte was expecting a more sit back and counter approach from Arsenal with his team selection including Fabregas, Pedro and Willian. Maybe one should have been sacrificed for Bakayoko from the start but that change on its own did little to create a winning outlook in the second half. Conte needs to juggle his troops with the matches coming thick and fast but I’m sure he will not allow Arsenal’s resilience to outshine his team again in the future
Follow ‘A Blue Up North’ on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue